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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

News in Brief

Satellite Link Safe


The military said it hoped soon to restore to full service four military satellites that it lost contact with during a blaze at a major relay station.

Anatoly Perminov, commander of the Space Forces, told Interfax on Friday that military officials had received data from the satellites during the night after the fire was brought under control.

The blaze raged for at least 16 hours at the station after breaking out early Thursday.

"In the course of the night, we received data from these four satellites," Perminov said. "It is possible that work with the four will soon be conducted in normal fashion."

He said the satellites linked to the station in the Kaluga region, south of Moscow, were "in general under control and ready for action."

Perminov said initial investigations confirmed assumptions the fire had been caused by a short circuit.

Finnish Ties Renewed

The Associated Press

HELSINKI, Finland — Brushing off an alleged spying case in the Finnish Defense Forces, Finland and Russia on Friday agreed to renew a cooperation agreement for a further five years.

Foreign Minister Erkki Tuomioja said he had not discussed the matter of military espionage with Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov because "it was a purely Finnish question."

Belgian Visa Ban


BRUSSELS, Belgium — Belgium said on Friday it will lift a ban on issuing visas to Russians as soon as Moscow implements special measures to handle rejected asylum seekers who do not want to return to Russia.

Belgium on May 4 suspended issuing travel visas to Russian citizens for a two-week period to protest the growing number of illegal Russian immigrants.

Belgian Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt said Friday that a Belgian delegation and Russia had signed an agreement aimed at lifting the ban.

A Russian delegation is due on May 17 or 18. "If the Russian delegation arrives earlier in Belgium, the Belgian measure will equally be lifted earlier," Verhofstadt said.

Kursk Retrieval Plan


Russia said it will announce final plans Monday to raise the Kursk submarine, which sank last year with 118 crew on board, Deputy Prime Minister Ilya Klebanov said.

Klebanov told reporters Friday that the date and technical details will be set at a Cabinet meeting.

Drug Security Threat

The Associated Press

A think tank warned Friday that drug use was spreading to children as young as 6 years old and increasing in the armed services, posing a serious national security threat.

In a lengthy report published in the Nezavisimaya Gazeta newspaper, the Council on Foreign and Defense Policy said that "drug use has turned once and for all into a mass, all-national problem that directly threatens the state."

According to Interior Ministry statistics, the number of drug seizures grew 3.5 times between 1990 and 1999, reaching almost 60 tons in 1999. The number of registered drug users has increased almost 400 percent since 1990 to reach 450,000 in 2000.

More than 60 percent of drug addicts in Russia are 16-30 years old, and almost 20 percent of them are of school age, the report said.

"There are recorded cases of drug use, especially in Moscow, by children 6-7 years old, in part as a result of association with drug addicted parents," the council said.

Mafia in Australia

The Associated Press

SYDNEY, Australia — Russian crime organizations are laundering billion-dollar global racketeering profits by buying businesses and luxury homes in Australia, a newspaper reported Sunday.

Russian mobsters consider Sydney and Melbourne and the Gold Coast resort region in the east as easy hiding places for their billions, the Sun-Herald said, citing police.

The mafia was also suspected of involvement in at least one murder in Australia, the newspaper said.

Jailer Killed


The Kremlin said its forces had shot dead the jailer of four Western hostages beheaded in Chechnya almost three years ago.

The office of the Kremlin's Chechnya spokesman Sergei Yastrzhembsky said Apti Abitayev had been shot dead during a gun battle in the southern Chechen village of Stary Atagi on May 2 while resisting arrest.

A Yastrzhembsky aide said Friday that Abitayev was a close ally of Arbi Barayev, the Chechen warlord thought to have staged the October 1998 abduction of four foreign telecom engineers installing a mobile telephone system in Grozny.

Helsinki Group 25

The Associated Press

The Moscow Helsinki Group human rights organization on Saturday marked its 25th anniversary with a gathering that included founding members who were forced to flee the Soviet Union.

The group was founded in 1976 to monitor Soviet compliance with the Helsinki Final Act. That document, signed in 1975, created the Conference on Security and Cooperation Europe and committed signatory countries to recognize basic human rights and freedoms.

Yury Orlov, the dissident physicist who announced the Moscow group's formation, emigrated to the United States that same year, but returned to Moscow for the gathering.

"They said I wouldn't overcome [the Soviet system], my dissident friends told me that, but I overcame," he said on NTV television.